I stumbled upon a great hashtag on twitter today whilst glancing at my phone intermittently as I supervise the children during school holidays (hey I deserve to look at my phone. I sat through an entire movie of Spongebob this morning that I’m certain lowered my IQ significantly). It’s called #NonWritersSay and it’s all about the things that, well, non-writers often say to authors, the things that the non-writers—bless them—have no idea are actually incredibly insulting.
It’s now the 3rd highest trending item on twitter, not because writers do nothing but fart around on twitter (although we’d all confess to latching onto any and every distraction when the MS isn’t going well), but because there’s this deeply-rooted painful ball of frustration and near insane anger that lives inside us, a ball that sits tight in our stomachs and gets bigger and bigger every time somebody makes some (often well meaning, many times simply callous) remark about what we do and why it’s easy/not relevant/stupid or pointless.
To be clear nobody’s saying ALL non-writers say these things. We know there are so many of you out there, especially our lovely loyal readers, who appreciate what we do and may even admire it. I don’t even need or especially want admiration (but hell it never hurts), but what I would like is a bare modicum of respect, the same kind of respect bankers get for being bankers, or lawyers get for knowing the law, or even that waitresses get for delivering meals (I bet they never get asked to deliver the meals for free because it’s not like waitressing is real work now, is it?)
So just for the hell of it and because I haven’t done a top five in quite a while, I thought I’d give you all my top five unintended insults from non-writers who—again I say bless ‘em—are completely missing the damn point.
1. “Oh, you’re a writer? I don’t read books”
I can’t even overstate how :0 my face becomes at this one. Not only to encounter somebody who is literate, has the capability to read but CHOOSES NOT TO READ BOOKS (are these pod people?), but to meet somebody so insensitive to your feelings that they basically dismiss your passion—what was the passion of Hemmingway and Austen and the Bronte Sisters—as something not even worth their time (I mean, not even one book a year people? NOT ONE?). Not only that, but they’re the kind of people who TELL YOU THIS TO YOUR FACE. Do artists get this? “Oh you’re an artist? I don’t look at paintings. Saving my eyes for something more important.” What about plumbers? “Oh you’re a plumber? I don’t use toilets. I shit in the woods. Plumbers are completely pointless and irrelevant.”
Like I said. Pod people. Pod people who shit in the woods like bears and don’t read books
(original quote tweeted by @allisonmaruska, but I have heard this many times myself)
2. Would I have read anything you’ve written? Me: do you read ebooks? Them: oh no. I only read real books.
I can’t help but wonder if these people also play Angry Birds, or do they always have to break out the traditional version of Monopoly and dust it off before they consider they’re playing a ‘real game’. Is the point of playing games to touch the Monopoly board? To physically move the pieces around the board? Or is it to have fun? Pass the time? Challenge yourself and your friends? Give you something to take your mind off a shitty day.
Guess what? Stories, like games or movies or music, can do all those things. Even when they’re read from a screen. The essence of the experience doesn’t change, only the method of delivery. I totally understand that not everybody has the technology to comfortably read ebooks. I have no problem at all with that. What I do have a problem with is somebody telling me that ebooks are not ‘real’ books.
Again it’s like saying that what I do is irrelevant. Pointless. Not real.
3. “I haven’t read any of your books but I want to. There’s just so much available for free though. Are any of yours going to be free?”
I don’t know what to tell ya. I’m sorry I feel I have the right to charge for something that took months of my life to get right, for something I did that ate into family time, that I slogged away at from 5am til 7am before I got my kids ready for school and then had to head to my day job, something that caused me countless hours of angst. I’m sorry you feel that a story that will give you hours of entertainment (hopefully!) isn’t worth what you pay for your daily Grande Skinny Mochachinno that you sip on the way to work and don’t even notice the flavor of anyway. I mean, that thing costs $6 and it took the barrista all off 1 minute and 45 seconds to make it. But my book that I spent six months on? Nah. You just wait for that to come out for free one day. Otherwise I’m just robbing you blind
(coffee to book price comparison idea thanks to @sonyacraig15)
4. “Oh you write romance? But you’re good enough to write a real book.”
I know when people say this it’s meant as a compliment. They’re trying to say that I’m a good writer. That I could find a more mainstream audience for my work. That I don’t have to waste my time writing fluffy little books that only borderline illiterate housewives read. I mean I could be read by reviewers from the Sydney Morning Herald if I put my mind to it (which clearly, I have not been doing thus far because the Herald hasn’t noticed me). Yep, all I need to do is apply myself and I could write something respectable. Since I’m already applying myself between the hours of 5am and 7am writing books that actually make me and my readers happy, I suppose I could find this extra time to impress the Board of Wanky Literati Snobs between 3 am and 4:55am. Who needs sleep? The deprivation will probably give me the gloomy frame of mind necessary to write something depressing and gritty that educated people would find worthy of their consideration.
Perfect plan really. Maybe I will write a ‘real’ book one day
5. “You should get them to make a movie out of your book”
@Whitcummings on twitter said it best
“I’ll get right on that. “Directors! Producers! Get your asses over here.”
This one belongs right up there with “You should write a bestseller”, as the best advice Captain Obvious ever gave. Why don’t more writers think of that? Just get a movie deal FFS! I could kiss those early mornings goodbye that’s for sure. Maybe I could even meet Bradley Cooper.
Hmm. Bradley Cooper…. *stares into space like Homer Simpson*
Wait. What was I saying again?
Oh right. A movie deal. I’m going to start EL Jamesing the shit out of that idea. It’s got to be super easy to get ‘them’ to make a movie out of my erotic romance novel.
Oh gosh, there are so many more of these I could do but it’s not a top five if I do ten. Perhaps I’ll do a part 2 next week if the sarcasm hasn’t made anyone drop dead yet.
(and thank you so much ❤ to all the readers out there who know what we do and appreciate it, and even more, PAY for our books. We ❤ ❤ ❤ you!)